US9817078B2 - Methods and apparatus for magnetic sensor having integrated coil - Google Patents

Methods and apparatus for magnetic sensor having integrated coil Download PDF

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US9817078B2
US9817078B2 US13468478 US201213468478A US9817078B2 US 9817078 B2 US9817078 B2 US 9817078B2 US 13468478 US13468478 US 13468478 US 201213468478 A US201213468478 A US 201213468478A US 9817078 B2 US9817078 B2 US 9817078B2
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magnetic field
sensing element
coil
die
magnetic
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US20130300406A1 (en )
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Gary T. Pepka
William P. Taylor
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Allegro MicroSystems LLC
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Allegro MicroSystems LLC
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    • GPHYSICS
    • G01MEASURING; TESTING
    • G01RMEASURING ELECTRIC VARIABLES; MEASURING MAGNETIC VARIABLES
    • G01R33/00Arrangements or instruments for measuring magnetic variables
    • G01R33/0017Means for compensating offset magnetic fields or the magnetic flux to be measured; Means for generating calibration magnetic fields
    • GPHYSICS
    • G01MEASURING; TESTING
    • G01RMEASURING ELECTRIC VARIABLES; MEASURING MAGNETIC VARIABLES
    • G01R33/00Arrangements or instruments for measuring magnetic variables
    • G01R33/0023Electronic aspects, e.g. circuits for stimulation, evaluation, control; Treating the measured signals; calibration
    • G01R33/0035Calibration of single magnetic sensors, e.g. integrated calibration
    • GPHYSICS
    • G01MEASURING; TESTING
    • G01RMEASURING ELECTRIC VARIABLES; MEASURING MAGNETIC VARIABLES
    • G01R33/00Arrangements or instruments for measuring magnetic variables
    • G01R33/02Measuring direction or magnitude of magnetic fields or magnetic flux
    • G01R33/06Measuring direction or magnitude of magnetic fields or magnetic flux using galvano-magnetic devices, e.g. Hall effect devices; using magneto-resistive devices
    • G01R33/09Magnetoresistive devices

Abstract

Methods and apparatus for a magnetic field sensor including a die, a coil proximate the die to generate a magnetic field, and a magnetic field sensing element having to detect changes in the magnetic field generated by the coil in response to a ferromagnetic target.

Description

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

As is known, there are a variety of types of magnetic field sensing elements, including, but not limited to, Hall effect elements, magnetoresistance elements, and magnetotransistors. As is also known, there are different types of Hall effect elements, for example, planar Hall elements, vertical Hall elements, and circular vertical Hall (CVH) elements. As is also known, there are different types of magnetoresistance elements, for example, anisotropic magnetoresistance (AMR) elements, giant magnetoresistance (GMR) elements, tunneling magnetoresistance (TMR) elements, Indium antimonide (InSb) elements, and magnetic tunnel junction (MTJ) elements.

Hall effect elements generate an output voltage proportional to a magnetic field. In contrast, magnetoresistance elements change resistance in proportion to a magnetic field. In a circuit, an electrical current can be directed through the magnetoresistance element, thereby generating a voltage output signal proportional to the magnetic field.

Magnetic field sensors, which use magnetic field sensing elements, are used in a variety of devices including current sensors that sense a magnetic field generated by a current carried by a current-carrying conductor, magnetic switches (also referred to herein as a proximity detector) that sense the proximity of a ferromagnetic or magnetic object, rotation detectors that sense passing ferromagnetic articles, for example, gear teeth, and magnetic field sensors that sense magnetic field or magnetic flux densities of a magnetic field.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Exemplary embodiments of the present invention provide methods and apparatus for magnetic sensor having an integrated coil and sensing element to detect changes in a magnetic field generated by the excited coil due to the movement of a target, such as a ferrous gear tooth. In one embodiment, the sensing element comprises a giant magnetoresistance (GMR) element, which has more sensitivity to magnetic field changes than a comparable Hall element.

In one aspect of the invention, a magnetic field sensor comprises a die, a coil proximate the die to generate a magnetic field, and a magnetic field sensing element on the die to detect changes in the magnetic field generated by the coil as a result of the presence of a ferromagnetic target.

The sensor can further include one or more of the following features: the coil is integrated in or on the die, the coil is substantially flat, only a portion of the magnetic field sensing element overlaps with the coil, the magnetic field sensing element is positioned at least in part between the coil and the die, the coil is positioned at least in part between the magnetic field sensing element and the die, the magnetic field sensing element comprises a giant magnetoresistance element, about half of an area of the magnetic field sensing element overlaps with the coil, about half of a length of the magnetic field sensing element overlaps with the coil, the magnetic field sensing element comprises a Hall element and a further magnetic field sensing element comprises a giant magnetoresistance element, the die includes circuitry to process information from the magnetic field sensor, a constant current source coupled to the coil, and/or the magnetic field sensing element has at least a portion that overlaps the coil.

In another aspect of the invention, a magnetic field sensor comprises a die, a first means proximate the die for generating a magnetic field, and a second means for detecting changes in the magnetic field generated by the first means as a result of the presence of a ferromagnetic target.

The sensor can further include the first means being integrated in or on the die, the first means comprising a giant magnetoresistance element, and/or the first means further comprising a Hall element.

In a further aspect of the invention, a method comprises providing a die, providing a coil proximate the die to generate a magnetic field, and providing a magnetic field sensing element to detect changes in the magnetic field generated by the coil as a result of the presence of a ferromagnetic target.

The method can further include one or more of the following features: the coil is integrated in or on the die, the magnetic field sensing element is positioned at least in part between the coil and the die, the coil is positioned at least in part between the magnetic field sensing element and the die, and/or the magnetic field sensing element comprises a giant magnetoresistance element and a Hall element.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The foregoing features of the invention, as well as the invention itself may be more fully understood from the following detailed description of the drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a top view of a magnetic sensor having an integrated coil in accordance with exemplary embodiments of the invention;

FIG. 1A is a cutaway side view of the sensor of FIG. 1;

FIG. 2 is cutaway side view of another embodiment of a magnetic sensor in accordance with exemplary embodiments of the invention;

FIG. 3 is a cutaway side view of a further embodiment of a magnetic sensor in accordance with exemplary embodiments of the invention;

FIG. 3A is a top view of the magnetic sensor of FIG. 3;

FIG. 4 is a cutaway side view of another embodiment of a magnetic sensor in accordance with exemplary embodiments of the invention;

FIG. 5 is a cutaway side view of a further embodiment of a magnetic sensor in accordance with exemplary embodiments of the invention; and

FIG. 5A is a cutaway side view of a still further embodiment of a magnetic sensor in accordance with exemplary embodiments of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Before describing the present invention, some information is provided. As used herein, the term “magnetic field sensing element” is used to describe a variety of types of electronic elements that can sense a magnetic field. The magnetic field sensing elements can be, but are not limited to, Hall effect elements, magnetoresistance elements, or magnetotransistors. As is known, there are different types of Hall effect elements, for example, planar Hall elements, vertical Hall elements, and circular vertical Hall (CVH) elements. As is also known, there are different types of magnetoresistance elements, for example, anisotropic magnetoresistance (AMR) elements, giant magnetoresistance (GMR) elements, tunneling magnetoresistance (TMR) elements, Indium Antimonide (InSb) elements, and magnetic tunnel junction (MTJ) elements.

Some of the above-described magnetic field sensing elements tend to have an axis of maximum sensitivity parallel to a substrate that supports the magnetic field sensing element, and others of the above-described magnetic field sensing elements tend to have an axis of maximum sensitivity perpendicular to a substrate that supports the magnetic field sensing element. In particular, metal based types of magnetoresistance elements, vertical Hall elements, and CVH elements tend to have axes of maximum sensitivity parallel to the substrate and some types of Hall elements and some semiconductor magnetoresistance sensors tend to have axes of sensitivity perpendicular to the plane substrate (i.e., sensitive through the thickness of the die).

As used herein, the term “magnetic field sensor” is used to describe a circuit that includes a magnetic field sensing element. Magnetic field sensors are used in a variety of applications, including, but not limited to, a current sensor that senses a magnetic field generated by a current carried by a current-carrying conductor, a magnetic switch (also referred to herein as a proximity detector) that senses the proximity of a ferromagnetic or magnetic object, a rotation detector that senses passing ferromagnetic articles, for example, gear teeth, and a magnetic field sensor (e.g., a linear magnetic field sensor) that senses a magnetic field density of a magnetic field. As used herein, the term “magnetic field signal” is used to describe any circuit signal that results from a magnetic field experienced by a magnetic field sensing element.

In general, exemplary embodiments of the invention provide a magnetic sensor having a coil integrated with a die containing sensor circuitry and a magnetic sensing element, such as a GMR element. In other embodiments, such as magnetoresistance sensor embodiments, can utilize a substrate, which may be an insulator without other circuitry. The coil and the sensor circuitry cooperate to detect changes in a magnetic field resulting from a moving ferrous target, for example. As the coil is excited by a current, a magnetic field is generated. Disturbances to the magnetic field caused by a passing ferromagnetic object, either a soft or hard ferromagnetic material, can be detected for sensing applications. Exemplary applications include sensing of speed, direction, and position sensing, including but not limited to seat position, or buckle presence position sensor applications.

FIGS. 1 and 1A show an exemplary magnetic sensor 100 having an integrated coil 102 and a die 104 containing sensor circuitry. A sensor element 106, such as a GMR element, is located proximate the coil 102. A moving target 10, such as a ferrous gear tooth, causes changes in the magnetic field generated by the coil 102 that can be detected by the GMR element 106. Output from the GMR element 106 can be processed by the sensor circuitry in a device layer 108 of the die 104, for example, to provide an output signal for the sensor 100. More particularly, the output of the GMR 106 can be used to determine the relative position of the ferrous target 10 or extraneous magnetic field. The GMR output can be also be used to determine if the ferrous target 10 or extraneous magnetic field is moving past the coils, as well as the speed and direction of the ferrous target or extraneous magnetic field. Circuitry in the device layer to process information from the sensor element is well known in the art.

In the illustrated embodiment of FIGS. 1 and 1A, the position of the sensing element 106 is aligned with one ‘side’ of the coil 102. That is, the sensing element is aligned with a portion of the coil 102 in which current is flowing the same direction with respect to one side of a rectangular die to the opposite side. In the illustrated embodiment, the current in the coils above the sensing element 106 flows out of (FIG. 1A) the page and current in the coils not above the sensing element flows into the page.

FIG. 2 shows an exemplary magnetic sensor 100′ having a coil 102′ disposed between the die 104′ and the GMR element 106′. With this arrangement, the coils can be fabricated with a standard IC process and then integrated with the GMR in a separate process. In exemplary embodiments, one or more CMP (chemical mechanical polishing) processing steps can occur prior to GMR deposition.

In one embodiment, a GMR sensor element 106′ is used. It is understood that, in general, a GMR element is more sensitive to magnetic field changes than a Hall element. Since a GMR element is much more sensitive than a Hall element, the coil size and current required for a given application can be reduced when compared to a Hall implementation. It is understood that a variety of sensing elements can be used to meet the needs of a particular application. Exemplary sensing elements include a Hall element, AMR, GMR, and MTJ elements.

FIGS. 3 and 3A show an exemplary embodiment of a magnetic sensor 200 having a sensing element 202 between a coil 204 and a die 206, where about half of the magnetic sensing element 202 overlaps with the coil 202 and about half does not overlap. It is understood that insulation layers (not shown for ease of understanding) can be placed between the coil and underlying sensor material and/or substrate as required by sensor and substrate material selection so as not to short circuit the materials and coil. As a ferrous target 10, such as a gear tooth, approaches and/or retreats, rotates, etc., the vector of the magnetic field aligns about perpendicularly to the sensing element 202 and thus, increases the observed magnetic field. This may be true even though the absolute magnetic field value does not change by a large magnitude above the noise of the system if generated in the coil by a constant current source. With this arrangement, the magnetic field of the coil 204 becomes more or less aligned to the axis of sensitivity of the sensing element/magnetic field transducer 202. That is, there is the flux vector and the sensitivity of the transducer element. If perpendicular to the axis of sensitivity, in theory, a field cannot be detected—even if it is very large. Thus, proper positioning allows the transducer to take advantage and exaggerate the measured field by using the fact the magnetic field vector is moving and the sensitivity can increase or decrease even if the absolute value of the field is relatively constant

FIG. 4 shows another embodiment of a magnetic sensor 300 having a sensing element 302, coil 304, and a die 306, where the sensing element 302 is generally centered in the coil 304. Changes in the magnetic field reflect the change in reluctance of the flux path near the coil 304 as the target tooth 10 approaches and retreats in relation to the coil.

FIG. 5 shows an exemplary embodiment of a magnetic sensor 400 having first and second sensing elements 402, 403, proximate a coil 404 and a die 406. In one embodiment, the first sensing element includes a Hall element 403 and the second sensing element includes a GMR element 402. The Hall element 402 is optimized for close air-gap measurements and the GMR element 403 is optimized for far air-gap measurements. With this arrangement, outputs from the Hall element 402 and the GMR element 403 can be processed together or independently.

FIG. 5A shows an exemplary embodiment in which the first and second sensing elements 402, 403 are located in ‘series’ aligned with the coil along a path of the current flowing through the coil.

In one embodiment, the coil(s) can be selectively energized with a current to achieve a desired magnetic field. For example, the coil may be energized for the time when a target may be in proximity to the sensor.

It is understood that the particular size and geometry of the components, coils etc., can vary to meet the needs of a particular application. In exemplary embodiments, coils may range from 10 um spaces and traces to ID (inner diameter) of 50 um to approximately 200 um and OD (outer diameter) from about 60 um (for one turn) to about 500 um. Larger ODs are possible to 750 um, for example, depending on the application. It is further understood that the coil can be generally square, circular, ovular, etc.

In general, spacing from the coil to the sensing element can vary, in part as a result of voltage isolation requirements. An exemplary spacing ranges from about 0.1 um to about 10.0 um, and more typically, between 0.3 and 3.0 um. Coil currents may range from about 1 to about 100 mA, for example, but more typically from about 5 to about 50 mA. For example, if the coil current is modulated, larger bursts or pulses of coil current can be used to determine if the target/ferrous object to be sensed is in a far air-gap condition, e.g., more than about 3 mm. A magnetic field is typically sensed at about 0.5 mm to about 3 mm airgap.

By adjusting the current in the coil based on the target location, the device uses less power. Less power is used for closer airgaps and more power for farther airgaps. Coil current can be pulsed or adjusted based on the signal received from the magnetic field sensor to use less power over time.

In exemplary embodiments, the coil is formed using conventional deposition and or etching processes well known to one of ordinary skill in the art. It is understood that the coil can have any practical shape, as seen in a top view, such as square, rectangular, circular, ovular, etc. It is also understood that insulation layers may be placed between the coils and the sensors and/or substrate to prevent shorting of the coil to other electrical layers in the system.

The coils shown in the figures generally are shown with a planar spiral type of geometry and of a single layer. It is understood that multiple metal layers of the coils can be used as well as other geometries of metal, for example solenoid type coils. It is further understood that alternative embodiments can include a flux concentrator, which can comprise a soft magnetic material, to improve the magnetic flux generated by the coil.

It is understood that exemplary embodiments of a magnetic sensor having an integrate coil are applicable to a wide variety of applications. For example, in one embodiment, a magnetic sensor with an integrated coil is optimized for seat belt detection. In another embodiment, a magnetic sensor is optimized for seat position detection with air gaps in the order of about 0.5 to about 3 mm.

Having described preferred embodiments, which serve to illustrate various concepts, structures and techniques, which are the subject of this patent, it will now become apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art that other embodiments incorporating these concepts, structures and techniques may be used. Accordingly, it is submitted that that scope of the patent should not be limited to the described embodiments but rather should be limited only by the spirit and scope of the following claims. All references cited herein are hereby incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.

Claims (25)

What is claimed is:
1. A magnetic field sensor, comprising:
a die;
a coil proximate the die to generate a magnetic field;
a Hall element magnetic field sensing element on said die to detect changes in the magnetic field generated by the coil as a result of movement of a ferromagnetic target external to the magnetic field sensor;
a constant current source coupled to the coil such that alignment changes of the magnetic field generated by the coil with respect to the magnetic sensing element caused by movement of the target are detected by the magnetic field sensing element,
wherein the movement of the ferromagnetic target to a first position causes a vector of the magnetic field generated by the coil to align substantially perpendicularly to the magnetic field sensing element which increases the magnetic field observed by the magnetic field sensing element, and further movement of the ferromagnetic target to a second position changes the magnetic field observed by the magnetic field sensing element; and
a GMR magnetic sensing element positioned in relation to the coil, wherein the Hall element magnetic sensing element is configured for a first airgap distance, and the GMR magnetic sensing element is configured for a second airgap distance, which is greater than the first airgap distance.
2. The sensor according to claim 1, wherein the coil is integrated with the die.
3. The sensor according to claim 1, wherein the coil is substantially flat.
4. The sensor according to claim 1, wherein the coil comprises a solenoid.
5. The sensor according to claim 1, wherein the only a portion of the Hall magnetic field sensing element overlaps with the coil.
6. The sensor according to claim 1, wherein the Hall magnetic field sensing element is positioned at least in part between the coil and the die.
7. The sensor according to claim 1, wherein the coil is positioned at least in part between the Hall magnetic field sensing element and the die.
8. The sensor according to claim 1, wherein about half of an area of the Hall magnetic field sensing element overlaps with the coil.
9. The sensor according to claim 1, wherein about half of a length of the Hall magnetic field sensing element overlaps with the coil.
10. The sensor according to claim 1, wherein sensor includes a further magnetic field sensing element.
11. The sensor according to claim 1, wherein the die includes circuitry to process information from the Hall magnetic field sensor.
12. The sensor according to claim 1, wherein the Hall magnetic field sensing element has at least a portion that overlaps the coil.
13. The sensor according to claim 1, wherein the GMR magnetic field sensing element comprises a semiconductor device.
14. A magnetic field sensor, comprising:
a die;
a first means proximate the die for generating a magnetic field, wherein the first means comprises a coil; and
a second means for detecting changes in the magnetic field generated by the first means as a result of movement of a ferromagnetic target external to the magnetic field sensor, wherein the second means comprises a Hall element magnetic sensing element;
a constant current source means coupled to the first means such that alignment changes of the magnetic field generated by the coil with respect to the Hall magnetic sensing element caused by movement of the target are detected by the Hall magnetic field sensing element,
wherein the movement of the ferromagnetic target to a first position causes a vector of the magnetic field generated by the coil to align substantially perpendicularly to the Hall magnetic field sensing element, which increases the magnetic field observed by the Hall magnetic field sensing element, and further movement of the ferromagnetic target to a second position changes the magnetic field observed by the Hall magnetic field sensing element, and
and a GMR magnetic sensing element positioned in relation to the coil, wherein the Hall element magnetic sensing element is configured for a first airgap distance, and the GMR magnetic sensing element is configured for a second airgap distance, which is greater than the first airgap distance.
15. The sensor according to claim 14, wherein the first means is integrated with the die.
16. A method, comprising:
providing a die within a magnetic field sensor;
providing a coil proximate the die to generate a magnetic field;
providing a Hall element magnetic field sensing element to detect changes in the magnetic field generated by the coil as a result of movement of a ferromagnetic target external to the magnetic field sensor;
coupling a constant current source to the coil such that alignment changes of the magnetic field generated by the coil with respect to the magnetic sensing element caused by movement of the target are detected by the magnetic field sensing element,
wherein the movement of the ferromagnetic target to a first position causes a vector of the magnetic field generated by the coil to align substantially perpendicularly to the magnetic field sensing element, which increases the magnetic field observed by the magnetic field sensing element, and further movement of the ferromagnetic target to a second position changes the magnetic field observed by the magnetic field sensing element; and
providing a GMR magnetic sensing element positioned in relation to the coil, wherein the Hall element magnetic sensing element is configured for a first airgap distance, and the GMR magnetic sensing element is configured for a second airgap distance, which is greater than the first airgap distance.
17. The method according to claim 16, wherein the coil is integrated on the die.
18. The method according to claim 16, wherein the GMR magnetic field sensing element is positioned at least in part between the coil and the die.
19. The method according to claim 16, wherein the coil is positioned at least in part between the GMR magnetic field sensing element and the die.
20. The method according to claim 16, wherein the GMR magnetic field sensing element has at least a portion that overlaps the coil.
21. A magnetic field sensor, comprising:
a die;
a coil proximate the die to generate a magnetic field, wherein the coil is integrated with the die;
a GMR magnetic field sensing element on said die to detect changes in the magnetic field generated by the coil as a result of movement of a ferromagnetic target external to the magnetic field sensor, wherein the die includes circuitry to process information from the magnetic field sensing element;
a constant current source coupled to the coil such that alignment changes of the magnetic field generated by the coil with respect to the magnetic sensing element caused by movement of the target are detected by the magnetic field sensing element,
wherein the movement of the ferromagnetic target causes a vector of the magnetic field generated by the coil to align substantially parallel to the magnetic field sensing element; and
a Hall magnetic sensing element positioned in relation to the coil, wherein the Hall element magnetic sensing element is configured for a first airgap distance, and the GMR magnetic sensing element is configured for a second airgap distance, which is greater than the first airgap distance.
22. The sensor according to claim 21, wherein the only a portion of the GMR magnetic field sensing element overlaps with the coil.
23. The sensor according to claim 21, wherein the GMR magnetic field sensing element is positioned at least in part between the coil and the die.
24. The sensor according to claim 21, wherein the coil is positioned at least in part between the GMR magnetic field sensing element and the die.
25. A magnetic field sensor, comprising:
a die;
a coil proximate the die to generate a magnetic field;
a GMR magnetic field sensing element on said die to detect changes in the magnetic field generated by the coil as a result of movement of a ferromagnetic target external to the magnetic field sensor;
a constant current source coupled to the coil such that alignment changes of the magnetic field generated by the coil with respect to the GMR magnetic sensing element caused by movement of the target are detected by the GMR magnetic field sensing element,
wherein the movement of the ferromagnetic target to a first position causes a vector of the magnetic field generated by the coil to align substantially perpendicularly to the GMR magnetic field sensing element which increases the magnetic field observed by the GMR magnetic field sensing element, and further movement of the ferromagnetic target to a second position changes the magnetic field observed by the GMR magnetic field sensing element; and
a Hall magnetic sensing element positioned in relation to the coil, wherein the Hall element magnetic sensing element is configured for a first airgap distance, and the GMR magnetic sensing element is configured for a second airgap distance, which is greater than the first airgap distance.
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PCT/US2013/037065 WO2013169455A1 (en) 2012-05-10 2013-04-18 Methods and apparatus for magnetic sensor having integrated coil
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EP20160193227 EP3139190A1 (en) 2012-05-10 2013-04-18 Methods and apparatus for magnetic sensor having integrated coil
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US9810519B2 (en) 2013-07-19 2017-11-07 Allegro Microsystems, Llc Arrangements for magnetic field sensors that act as tooth detectors
US20150022198A1 (en) * 2013-07-19 2015-01-22 Allegro Microsystems, Llc Method and Apparatus for Magnetic Sensor Producing a Changing Magnetic Field
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US9720054B2 (en) 2014-10-31 2017-08-01 Allegro Microsystems, Llc Magnetic field sensor and electronic circuit that pass amplifier current through a magnetoresistance element
US9823092B2 (en) 2014-10-31 2017-11-21 Allegro Microsystems, Llc Magnetic field sensor providing a movement detector
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